Love and Relationships
The triangular theory of love paints love as a human emotion that consists of the three components which include passion, commitment and intimacy. The three components of love have different roles within an adult relationship and are depicted differently from one relationship to another. Overbeek et al (2007) assert that romantic relationships must consist of the three components in different measures hence resulting in different types of relationships and interactions among those in relationships. In the description of Overbeek et al, consummate love consists of all the three components and depicts maturity in the relationship between those involved. Passion pertains to feelings of attraction, romance and sexuality; commitment relates to the feelings the resolve to stay in the relationship while intimacy relates to the feelings of connectedness and depicts the emotional composition of the relationship. The presence of all these feelings implies a complete and affirmed relationship where those involved are willing to persevere the relationship hardships for a better future.
The presence of different components of love results in the development of four distinct types of adult relationships. The connectedness between love components and human relationships is observed through the existence of different perceptions about self and others. Konrath et al (2014) describe four distinct relationship types. These include: secure relationships, dismissing relationships, fearful relationships and pre-occupied relationships. The secure relationships are characterized by high self confidence and positive perception of others. On the other hand, the dismissing relationships depict negative perceptions of others and positive perceptions of self. They are more likely to be characterized by narcissism and threat feelings (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998).The preoccupied relationships are characterized by anxiety and low self worth while the fearful relationships are characterized by general distrust for others. These relationship types are also presented through the behaviors that people depict in their relationships.
Connecting the relationship types to the love components reveals that certain components of love must be in existence before a relationship can be said to be of a specific type. For instance, the secure relationships can be likened to consummate relationships where the combination of the three components is in existence. The harmony between commitment, passion and intimacy in a secure relationship makes the relationship capable of going through rough patches successfully and such relationships often exist for the long term. In a secure relationship, the combination of love components makes it possible for those in the relationship to stay autonomous yet practice care for one another. Examples of secure relationships built over time are marriages and friendships that have been built through many years.
The dismissing relationships involve at least one person having a more positive perception of themselves than of the other. This implies that while one of the people in the relationship may take it seriously, the probability that the dismissing partner takes it seriously is low. This type of relationship is characterized by lack of commitment. The passion and intimacy may be high yet the commitment is low. In such cases, infatuation is a likely result where the relationship is supposed to be romantic. The relationships with such characteristics are often short lived. Fearful relationships are characterized by the presence of inhibitions to the relationship potential. In a pre-occupied relationship, the intimacy and passion components of love are not pursued fully, the result being obsession. In such cases, at least one of the partners feels undeserving of the other and may do all within their power to stay close to the person they are in a relationship with. This has the potential of resulting in loss of autonomy. The fearful relationships are characterized by lack of passion and intimacy and may also have limited commitment. This is because fear, not only hinders autonomy but also limits the ability to access help where needed. As such, a person in a fearful relationship may not be able to explore the full range of love components for fear of being judged by others. They do not possess sufficient self confidence to be autonomous yet distrust others to help them pursue the relationship goals and their own goals. This is more common in friendships between people of different social classes and in relationships between employers and their employees.
Understanding the relationship types and the components of love involved can be an essential starting point for effective couple counseling by psychologists. Awareness of the specific relationship types can help the psychologist to work together with a couple in identifying the type of relationship that they desire in marriage and to identify all its characteristics. Building a successful relationship depends on the capacity to eliminate feelings of aggression and self worthlessness (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998). Couple relationships can only be successful when those involved understand each other and are willing to work towards the good of one another. For a relationship to be successful therefore, a psychologist should help a couple to identify their individual strengths as well as the strengths of the partners in the relationship. The objective would be to create a secure relationship, built on all the components of love and characterized by autonomy, self confidence and trust of others (Overbeek et al., 2007). Developing positive perceptions of self and others can only result from commitment and passion. Without all the three components of love, the relationship could only be for the short term.
Bushman, B. J., and Baumeister, R. F. (1998). Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced Aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 219-229. Retrieved from www.persweb.wabash.edu/facstaff/hortonr/articles%20for%20class/Bushman%20and%20Baumeister.pdf
Konrath, S.H., Chopik, W.J., Hsing, C.K. and O’Brien, E. (2014). Changes in adult attachment styles in American college students over time: A meta- analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 18(4): 326- 348. Retrieved from www.citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.723.5042&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Overbeek, G., Ha, T., Scholte, R., De Kemp, R. and Engels, R. (2007). Brief report: Intimacy, passion and commitment in romantic relationships – validation of a triangular love scale for adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 30: 523- 528. Retrieved from www.pdfs.semanticscholar.org/454f/27cb6d046919dbcdcd0669367e94564b327e.pdf